Funeral March, from the Funeral of Queen Mary

Henry Purcell
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page one of Funeral March, from the Funeral of Queen Mary

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Full details

Henry Purcell (b.1659 - d.1695) is one of England’s most famous composers. Although his music and Operas combined French and Italian elements, they are recognized as demonstrating a definite ‘English’ baroque feel. The heart-wrenching aria “Thy Hand, Belinda” from one of his most famous operas, “Dido and Aeneas”, for example, is still performed regularly today, in a variety of styles.

This piece is the opening anthem from a suite of music written in 1694 for the Funeral of Queen Mary II of England. The whole suite was again performed just a few months later, at Purcell’s own funeral in 1695. It is simple, short, well-known, and gives a dramatic punctuation when used appropriately.

Suggestions for Performance

This piece is written in 4-part harmony, making the “C” part just as important as the “B” part. It is best, then, to try and get an even balance of musicians on every part for this arrangement.

In ideal conditions, it may prove to be best practice to put most of the brass on the “A” and “D” parts (with a select few on “B”), and put the woodwinds mostly in “B” (especially for the high-pitched ‘twangs’ in the second verse), and “C”, with a few key winds on “A” to help fill in the sound (Alto Saxes and Clarinets blend well and will give the trumpets a fuller sound here). The low brass, in the meantime, have an opportunity to ‘stretch out’, and try the “C” or “B” parts (Tenor and Top-Tenor) – just make sure there are plenty of low brass (Bass Trombones, Bari Sax and Tuba) to hammer home the accents on the “D” part in the second verse.

So long as there is sufficient overlap between the brass and woodwind families on each part, this simple piece offers the potential for excellent blend, and a variety of possible sounds depending on the DMus’ choice of instrumentation and part assignment.

It is beneficial for the DMus to interpret accents in the score as an indication to “push” the sound forward, as opposed to “biting” it.

The music can be brought in by conductor, or with the standard roll-in, in slow time; or alternatively, can be brought in with a swelling drum roll, like that used for anthems.

Score ID
Henry Purcell
Year of composition
Year of arrangement
Easy (Grades 1-3)
1 minute
Military band
Classical music

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